Memorial held for FIU's Berry in Florida
HAINES CITY, Fla. -- A Florida International University football player stabbed to death by a former teammate during an argument involving a girlfriend was remembered Saturday for the heart he showed for the game and in life.
A memorial service for Kendall Berry, 22, held in his central Florida hometown drew some 1,000 mourners, many of them wearing T-shirts and buttons bearing the football player's portrait.
It was an emotional service that roused some to their feet to clap and sway with jubilant gospel music while others openly sobbed. Some FIU teammates attended.
Only one word can describe our brother, and that's perfect. God came and got my brother because he was perfect, and God needed him to be in a perfect place.” -- Dreon Smith, brother of Kendall Berry
"Kendall embodied heart," Bill Buldini, Berry's coach at Haines City High School, told The Associated Press. "You couldn't help but feel proud love for him and root for him because everything he did he did with such passion."
Quentin Rashad Wyche is charged with second-degree murder in Berry's death. Police say Wyche stabbed Berry on March 25 then fled the scene after an argument involving Berry's girlfriend. Wyche later turned himself in. A memorial service earlier in the week at Florida International University drew some 1,400.
On Saturday, Berry's open casket was flanked by flowers, his jersey and his portrait. Before the service a slideshow projected on large screens above the sanctuary showed the football player in action. Family members and friends remembered Berry as charismatic but humble, a talented athlete who aspired to the NFL and inspired those around him.
Buldini, who coached Berry during his junior and senior years, talked of his experience with Berry as ushers walked up and down the sanctuary offering boxes of tissues to mourners. He said they stayed in contact, though the coach regretted never seeing him play at FIU.
"The last thing that we got to share with one another and I got to tell Kendall and we shared was that we loved each other," Buldini said. "I'm going to really cherish that."
Dreon Smith's tribute to his brother was brief and heartfelt.
"Only one word can describe our brother, and that's perfect," he said. "God came and got my brother because he was perfect, and God needed him to be in a perfect place."
"I truly believe that Kendall defined perseverance," said Mario Cristobal, FIU's head coach. "No. 19, we love you."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press